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Thermostat 5: Progressive Disclosure and Feedback Models

Thursday, December 12th, 2013 | Posted by kurt.hanley

This is now my fifth version of the ideal state for thermostat design. I have previously posted other versions of my progress of developing an intuitive design for a thermostat. The posts have included information that has been gained through a process of user testing called “think aloud testing”. It has been helpful for me as a designer to do this because it sheds light on areas that I can communicate better through design.

Over the design process I have learned that what might seem the most intuitive work flows to me is not always the case when it involves another persons point of view. I could understand this from even evaluating testing between users. As a test administrator I get to see different results amongst the different users on how the set out to in walking a path to completing a goal. Using this information I have been building off of the information through testing and now presenting the fifth version in this post. The previous versions of the ideal thermostat can be viewed at the end of this post.

In this round of testing the fluid progress of a user has become much more uniform and clear. Round 5 might be the first time when multiple users successfully completed each task with no more than one decision hesitation and no extra steps taken to complete the desired task.

A big difference in the testing is attributed to incorporating progressive disclosure models into the thermostat and feedback boxes. A progressive disclosure is a design technique I am using to reduce an overwhelming feeling from the user when something that might seem jarring. It has occurred in testing mostly when introducing a new interface or when jumping to different page layouts.

Feedback is a microinteraction technique that is being implemented in the scheduling function of this thermostat. The goal of feedback is to have the user keeping “playing” with the thermostat overtime. I am doing this by providing the user a set of prompts when scheduling is on and adjustments are made. Without this the user is more likely to not use temperature scheduling and disregard its benefits. I have provided example of both feedback and progressive disclosure models below in the breakdown of test results.

Here is the breakdown of test results:

Prompt A, B, C, and D had no hesitations or second steps. Some of the wording in the prompt can be cleaned up to increase confidence level in user flow.

Prompt E: Visually to jarring. Users did not like the interaction and were surprised when the screen went black with only a couple buttons left over.

Correction: Have the off screen appear from slow descending from top as a shield or with a gradient. By doing this a transition will guide the user into the new state similar to a progressive disclosure model.

Prompt F:  Feedback button icons unexpected for one user. After the testing the user discussed that it made sense but they just did not expect that feedback  interaction to happen in the area it happened. This is not good because the primary function if feedback it to have the user find it enjoyable and wanting to engage with the buttons.

Corrections: The layout of the feedback box is being slightly altered. This does not answer the problem space for that one area. Variations will be tested to see if an action can happen in the scheduling to satisfy the users insight.

Prompt F. Example of Feedback

Prompt G: In Order to prevent the users from turning on the AC in the winter a feedback box occurs. It informs users the problems that can happen in a brief statement. The feedback icon also has norgie which is a icon that can be clicked to find out even further information. When clicked progressive disclosure model slides down from the feedback box. It has conclusive information that details why the user is being stopped in their goal to adjust the system to AC.

Users responded well to it. Many liked the interaction and often did not even hit the norgie to discover more info. One participant after reading the feedback box said “Oh, that’s disturbing.” when considering the system breaking.

Prompt G: Example of Progressive Disclosure Model

Overall testing this round has gone much smoother that all previous tests. At this point it feels like I am close to a final version of the ideal thermostat. There is one more round of testing and I plan to make a couple subtle changes and incorporate and system setup section.

Previous Versions:

Thermostat Wire Frame 4

Thermostat Wire Frame 3

Thermostat Wire Frame 2

Thermostat Wire Frame 1

Cleaning Up Design Complication

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